Pool lacks views and deck is overcrowded with loungers
This property was impacted by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. We will update our review as soon as we have more information. ESJ Azul is a pleasant, three-pearl property located at the eastern end of Isla Verde beach. The hotel’s 450 studios and apartments are clean and practical, offering full kitchens plus private balconies or terraces. Unlike most self-catering properties, ESJ Azul features a diverse line-up of amenities, including a free breakfast buffet as well as a game room and a bar. Add in a great location in Isla Verde, within walking distance of shops and restaurants, and this property offers quite good value -- particularly for families. The main drawback here is that Wi-Fi is only free in the lobby, but it can be accessed in rooms for a daily fee. Another option could be the Hyatt House San Juan, which also has kitchenettes, but it doesn’t have direct beach access.
Spruced-up apartment-style property with smart facilities and a prime location
Formerly known as ESJ Towers, ESJ Azul reopened in early 2016 following extensive renovations (although upgrades were still on-going during our visit). The revamp has fitted the hotel with rooms and amenities that are simple and modern -- some, like the polished lobby bar, are even a bit higher in design than you might expect for a mid-range hotel.
ESJ Azul bills itself as a timeshare resort with hotel-like amenities, and it delivers with features not traditionally associated with vacation rental properties, such as a free breakfast buffet and an on-site bar. The multi-bedroom apartments and kid-friendly facilities, including a pool, game room, and beach access, make the property a hit with Western families. You’ll also see a fair number of retirees, most of whom own their units through the property’s vacation club model -- some have been owners since the property first opened in the 1970s.
Convenient beachfront location in Isla Verde, a 10-minute drive from the airport
ESJ Azul is located at the eastern terminus of Avenida Isla Verde, the Isla Verde district’s main thoroughfare. This built-up, touristy area outside downtown San Juan is a favorite of travelers visiting Puerto Rico for weekend getaways, thanks to its location a short drive from San Juan’s airport.
Dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars can be found a 10- to 15-minute walk west of the hotel, along Avenida Isla Verde. San Juan’s ritzy Condado neighborhood is around a 20-minute drive away, while Old San Juan can be reached in less than 25 minutes by car.
Well-kept guest rooms with full kitchens and furnished balconies
ESJ Azul consists of studios in addition to one-and three-bedroom apartments, all of which are clean and inviting. The units we visited had either blue or brown bed runners and matching carpeting, along with decorations ranging from framed photos of local scenery to homey statues and knickknacks. Studios include narrow kitchens with full-size fridges, ovens with four-burner stovetops, and microwaves. Renovated studios have sleeker dark grey cabinets and modern appliances, while others are a bit dated but well-maintained.
Flat-screen TVs, work desks, and armchairs are standard. Wi-Fi is available for a surcharge. Slender balconies with ocean, garden, or city views are furnished with pairs of Adirondack chairs. Bathrooms feature large vanities set across from closets with mirrored sliding doors. All studios have bath products by Archive and shower/tub combos.
One- and three-bedroom apartments add living areas with dining tables -- some also include sofa beds. Larger kitchens feature washers and dryers as well as dishwashers. Some have big ground floor patios that offer easy access to the pool, but high surrounding walls limit the views.
Outdoor pool with whirlpool, plus a free buffet breakfast and direct access to Isla Verde beach
The hotel’s freeform pool is set on an upper-floor terrace, where neighboring high-rise buildings block any potential ocean views. The wide, brick deck surrounding the pool is packed with blue loungers that have built-in canopies. There’s also a little circular whirlpool, as well as a small booth that serves poolside drinks and snacks like hot dogs.
A children’s pool is located separately, on a ground-level deck leading toward the beach. Guests often mistake this tiny pool as a place to wash the sand off their feet on the way back from the beach, with a sign set in front of the pool requesting they use the adjacent outdoor shower instead.
The hotel offers direct access to Isla Verde beach through a key-card access gate. This broad stretch of golden sands is backed by a mix of palm trees and towering neighboring hotel buildings. ESJ Azul is located at the eastern end of the beach, just before the sands are interrupted by a cape called Punta El Medio.
A free breakfast buffet, which is included in the room rate, is served at Mar Restaurant, which has a chain-like feel with its blue carpeting and cafeteria-style tables. The breakfast buffet offers a nice spread of hot items like bacon and eggs, as well as cold cuts, pastries, and cereal, plus a make-your-own-waffle station.
The stylized lobby bar, Cielo, features a gray-and-white color scheme with blue accent lighting. The bar offers daily themed drink specials, like Martini Mondays and Wine-Down Whisky-Up Wednesdays, as well as a steady line-up of live music.
There’s a large game room set adjacent to the bar, giving parents the option to have a drink while their kids play nearby. It includes a pool table, ping pong, and a range of arcade games. A compact card room next door has a row of four-top tables.
The property's tiny on-site market sells basics like coffee, snacks, and booze. There is a fitness center, but it was closed for renovations during our visit. Free Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and there’s a medium-sized meeting room that can be booked for events. Free parking is offered in an on-site parking garage.